BY RICHARD MUPONDE
Zimbabwe now stares at the draconian Patriotic Bill for which Zanu PF simply needs a majority, not necessarily two-thirds, according to legal experts.
Zanu PF managed to push through Parliament Constitutional Amendment No 1 and 2 Bills that give President Emmerson Mnangagwa imperial powers.
Constitutional Amendment No 2 Bill sailed through the Senate with 65 votes, with MDC-T senators Piniel Denga, Morgan Femai and Jane Chifamba voting in Zanu PF’s corner to help the ruling party achieve the required two-thirds majority.
The Bill now awaits the President’s assent.
After passing the two controversial Bills, Zanu PF is now focused on the Patriotic Bill which, according to Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, is an ordinary Bill that requires a simple majority for its passage.
Presidential spokesperson George Charamba has already hinted that Zanu PF was now setting sight on the Patriotic Bill after bagging the two Bills that will effect 27 changes to the Constitution adopted in 2013 through a referendum.
“What’s next? Now that we are done with Amendment No 2, we move to Patriotic Bill,” Charamba tweeted.
Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum executive director Musa Kika said the Patriotic Bill would be an easy sail for Zanu PF because it was an ordinary Bill that requires a simple parliamentary majority.
“The Patriot Bill is likely to be pushed and to sail through,” Kika said.
“Unlike the Bills amending the Constitution, the Patriot Bill is an ordinary Bill that does not even require two-thirds majority votes in both the Lower and Upper Houses. So the Bill will be an easy sail for Zanu PF.”
“Unfortunately, if the Bill is passed, it would have disastrous consequences to our democracy.”
Zanu PF, since last year, has been pushing for the Patriotic Bill which seeks, among other issues, to criminalise citizens who criticise Zimbabwe and its leadership, a move observers say will further shrink the democratic space.
The Bill is targeted at opposition MPs and civic leaders accused of inviting sanctions from Western countries.
The Bill seeks to amend the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act to criminalise support for the United States’ Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (Zidera) and related sanctions on targeted individuals or organisations and also to criminalise opposition to Mnangagwa’s regime.
Political analyst Alexander Rusero said Zanu PF would continue with the strategy of lawfare to consolidate its power and the Patriotic Bill is one such lawfare tool.
“I think you also follow public opinion as much as I do. The presidential spokesperson George Charamba has already hinted on that through his Twitter account, that the next bus stop is the Patriotic Bill,” Rusero said.
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